I think my dad knew I was in it for the long haul when he handed me the halter to my first Holstein heifer, Starjet. He simply told me, “Don’t let go.” Excitedly, I took the halter, ready to lead my heifer. She was a fairly large yearling heifer, compared to my small 8-year-old body.

Just as I took the halter into my hand, the heifer took off racing through the pasture. The only thought in my head was “Don’t let go,” so I didn’t. Determined to gain control, I held on tightly to the end of the halter as she dragged me through the pasture.

I remember swallowing the dirt and feeling the rocks scratch me from head to toe as I dangled helplessly behind her. I heard my mom and dad yelling, “Let go, let go!” Finally, after about 50 yards, I let go and went spinning across the ground.

Defeated, I stood up and walked back to the gate. I was coughing up rocks and dirt and could barely breathe. My mom was in tears, and my dad was worried yet holding back laughter. My only response was, “I am sorry I let go.”

As much as I loved growing up on our family’s dairy, it was not in my mind that I was going to stay on it. I moved 45 minutes away, went to college and got married. My husband, Jared, who now drives a milk truck, grew up on a beef and crop farm.


He supports me but has little interest in dairy farm life. Soon after getting married, we welcomed our son, Colton, into the world. I tried my best to be the stay-at-home-mom type, but it wasn’t for me. So when my dad called asking me to come milk, I gladly accepted.

I soon found that I missed the farm dearly, and that farm life was indeed my passion the entire time. I am now 28 years old, and about five days a week I make the 45-minute drive and help out part-time on the farm.

Last summer, I handed my 4-year-old son, Colton, the halter to his first calf, a small Jersey bottle calf which he named “Puddin’.” The mom in me was thankful we avoided a first experience like mine.

Colton loved coming over to the farm to lead Puddin’, and when he got the opportunity to show for the first time in the bucket calf class at the county fair, he was extremely excited. As it got close to time to go into the ring, he got nervous and was about to back out when I told him, “Try it. If you don’t like it, then you don’t have to do it again.”

I was nervous. This was a point in time when I knew he would either share my interest in cattle and showing or discard it. Proudly and excitedly, he toted the young Jersey calf around the ring, acting like he had been doing it for years. As he walked out of the ring holding his little trophy, he looked at me and said excitedly, “Mom, I tried it, and I liked it!”

I love seeing Colton’s eyes light up when he gets to help me with things on the farm. He enjoys carrying buckets with as much grain as he can handle to feed the calves. Laughing, he says, “Mom, they really like me; they come running up to me when I dump the feed in.”

He likes helping with a lot of things on the farm, but his favorite thing to do is clean the milk barn. When he goes to milk with me, he cannot wait until I am done so he can use the broom to scrub the barn and spray it down with the hose.

He always proudly brags while helping me, “Uhhh! I’m working hard, Mom.” It makes me happy to know that he appreciates the hard work a farm takes.

As I finished up at the farm one evening, my dad was at home resting after working all day. Colton looked at him and said, “Papa, I don’t think it is right that you sit here and read the paper while my mom is out working hard.”

Colton tells me that when he grows up he wants to be “a Cardinal baseball player, a farmer and drive a milk truck.” I cannot say that we will farm forever or that in the future he will even be interested in the farm, but I do know that I love it.

I also know that I will “never let go” of the passion, responsibility, experience and skills I have gained over the years. I enjoy being able to pass as much as I can to my young son and hope he can gain even half of what I have. As for now, Colton says his favorite part about the farm is that “the cows make the milk and you know I love chocolate milk!” PD


Shannon Kleiboeker
Mi-Wil Dairy
Neosho, Missouri